A federal grand jury has returned a 47-count superseding indictment against suspended Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Charles Maddox, 51, Tallahassee political consultant Janice Paige Carter-Smith, 54, and John Thomas Burnette, 42, all of Tallahassee, Florida.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe of the Northern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Rachel Rojas of the FBI’s Jacksonville Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Mary Hammond of the IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) Tampa Field Office made the announcement.
In December 2018, a federal grand jury charged Maddox and Carter-Smith in a 44-count indictment for conspiring to operate a racketeering enterprise that engaged in acts of bank fraud, extortion, honest-services fraud and bribery. That indictment also charged Maddox and Carter-Smith with substantive counts of bank fraud, false statements to financial institutions, extortion, honest-services fraud, use of interstate facilities to facilitate bribery, false statements to federal officers, conspiracy to interfere with the lawful function of the IRS and filing false tax returns. The superseding indictment adds Burnette as a defendant and charges him with participating in the racketeering conspiracy and extortion, honest services mail fraud, the use of facilities in interstate commerce to facilitate bribery and making false statements to federal officers.
Burnette’s initial appearance is scheduled for today at the U.S. Courthouse in Tallahassee. The trial of this case has been scheduled for Nov. 4, 2019.
More specifically, the December 2018 indictment alleges that Maddox and Carter-Smith conspired to operate two companies, Governance Inc. and Governance Services LLC, as one entity they referred to as “Governance.” Governance was allegedly part of a racketeering enterprise which extorted money and accepted bribes from Governance clients under color of Maddox’s office and through fear of the economic harm which Maddox could inflict in his position as an influential City Commissioner. Maddox allegedly agreed to and voted on matters and exerted influence on City employees to take actions that benefitted the businesses that paid Maddox and Carter-Smith through Governance. Additionally, Maddox and Carter-Smith allegedly defrauded a bank of more than $250,000 through two fraudulent short sales of real property, lied to federal agents about Governance and other matters and violated federal tax laws by conspiring to interfere with the IRS and filing false tax returns.
The superseding indictment adds charges that Burnette participated with Maddox and Carter-Smith in extorting representatives of a company seeking to develop properties in Tallahassee to pay money to Maddox through Governance in exchange for Maddox’s assistance as a public official in the proposed projects. Further, it is alleged that Burnette arranged the logistics of bribe payments of $10,000 per month to Maddox through Governance, and told the company representatives that Maddox wanted them to deal only with Burnette. Additionally, the superseding indictment alleges that when Maddox and Burnette traveled to Las Vegas (Nevada) with the company representatives paying for all expenses, Maddox and Burnette told the company representatives about Maddox threatening to destroy a former client’s business deals if the former client did not pay Maddox. The superseding indictment further alleges that at subsequent meetings, when asked by company representatives about stopping the bribe payments to Maddox, Burnette made various extortionate statements to the representatives as to what actions Maddox would take to cause economic harm to the company if they stopped making the $10,000 monthly payments to Maddox. The superseding indictment further alleges that Burnette made false statements to the FBI concerning the name of the firm that Carter-Smith had, his knowledge of the company making payments to Maddox through Governance, and the content of conversations that Maddox had with company representatives.
An indictment is merely a charge and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI and the IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Simon J. Cataldo and Peter M. Nothstein of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen M. Kunz, Gary Milligan and Andrew J. Grogan of the Northern District of Florida.